LAPD report on Echo Park homeless camp cleanup finds 'room for improvement'

LAPD report on Echo Park homeless camp cleanup finds 'room for improvement'

8/1/2021 6:48:00 AM

LAPD report on Echo Park homeless camp cleanup finds 'room for improvement'

Analysis of the Echo Park closure and resulting protests in March found several shortcomings.

.In the days after the protests, the bulk of which occurred over the course of two nights in late March, LAPD Chief Michel Moore credited the department with maintaining safety in a volatile situation that saw people lobbing water bottles and firecrackers at officers, and protesters locking arms to prevent officers from arresting those responsible.

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AdvertisementMoore said the department had done a better job than it had the previous spring at limiting the use of projectile weapons and processing detainees swiftly.However, Moore said the department had received complaints about Echo Park — including from the media — and

would be reviewing its operationand the circumstances that led up to it. He said it was clear the city needs a better plan for addressing homeless encampments.In a July 22 letter accompanying the report to the Police Commission, Moore said the department has “made great strides in addressing weaknesses” in its handling of mass demonstrations since the 2020 unrest, but the events in Echo Park showed that “there continues to be room for improvement.”

The report noted that the closure of the park was scheduled to occur a year earlier, in March 2020, after City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who represents the area, determined it was necessary for repairs to be made. However, the COVID-19 pandemic put those plans on hold.

AdvertisementThe report said efforts by the city to find housing for individuals who were living in the park failed, with some expressing no desire to leave.The report said the idea to close the park resurfaced in December, but the LAPD requested that the action be delayed because it was short-staffed while experiencing a wave of coronavirus infections among officers.

“Between Dec. 1, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021, 1,684 LAPD employees tested positive for COVID-19 and were forced to quarantine for at least 14 days,” the department reported. “The loss of such a significant portion of the Department’s workforce created massive ripples across the organization that drastically effected the Department’s ability to conduct daily operations.”

Efforts were again made to house people in the park, this time with the assistance of outreach company Urban Alchemy, until a decision was made to move forward with the closure in March.Advertisement“As the entity responsible for public safety, and due to the sheer number of personnel that would be required to successfully secure such a large perimeter while the fence was being constructed, the LAPD took a leading role in operationalizing the closure,” the LAPD report said.

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On the night of March 24, the plan was put into action. Protesters responded, and there were some clashes with police. Few arrests were made.The night of March 25, protesters in the area used strobe lights, police said, to make it difficult for officers to see what was going on. Protesters again said the LAPD was aggressive in staging across from protesters who were exercising their free speech rights.

That night, the LAPD declared an unlawful assembly; “kettled,” or surrounded, protesters who did not disperse as ordered; and arrested more than 180 people, including journalists. City Atty. Mike Feuer later determined that.AdvertisementAccording to the new report, the LAPD had as many as 750 officers deployed to Echo Park during the March events and spent more than $1.1 million on regular salaries and more than $900,000 on overtime, among other costs.

The LAPD received 12 complaints related to its protest response, including one from protester Isaac Scher, whose arm was broken. Another complaint is related to the detention of Queally. An internal review found that a sergeant made an “improper remark” after the reporter requested to speak to a supervisor, according to the report.

The report determined that the LAPD should devise a better system for tracking the use of projectiles on crowds, as “there is a large gap between the level of documentation” for such incidents versus similar uses of force in non-protest settings, which are better documented.

The report also found that the LAPD “needs to provide formal guidance to address the rise of independent journalists, reporters and ‘observers’ in today’s culture,” as well as “consider publishing a formal policy or specific guidance regarding what actions field supervisors and officers should take when [they] detain someone at the scene of an unlawful assembly.”

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